With reflections of the past and awaiting what the future may hold, the eight songs that occupy The Matinee ’21 v. 131 edition provide the anchors to these unpredictable times.
Ashley Shadow – “Catlin” (Vancouver, Canada)
RIYL: Anaïs Mitchell, Laura Marling, Cassandra Jenkins
While many artists attempt to create summer anthems, Ashley Webber crafts music that is contemplative and sobering. As Ashley Shadow, she has had us reflect on love, our purpose, and the foreseeable future on “For Love”, “Don’t Slow Me Down”, and “Grey”. With the fourth and final track before her forthcoming sophomore album, Only the End, she shares a gorgeous lament made for autumn’s arrival.
With the spine-tingling tones of Paul Rigby’s (Neko Case) pedal steel echoing in the background, Webber delivers, as usual, a stunning vocal performance on “Catlin”. Her voice is beautifully brittle, filled with vulnerability, emotion, and grace as she remembers a life taken too soon. Catlin’s life is littered with “tales of misfortune”, where hope had abandoned her many years before. With each word Webber sings, the more we realize how this song is also a memorial to everyone we’ve lost.
“Try to remember a dream of long ago
That took you to places
Did you give up a long time ago”
Casper Skulls – “Tommy” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Slow Pulp, Sun June, Wilsen
Within the bleak news, joy can be found if we just look and appreciate all the little things in life. A child’s laugh, a bird’s song in the morning, or the changing colors of the maple trees can make us smile. For front-woman Melanie St-Pierre of Casper Skulls, a man named “Tommy” gave her and her neighbors joy with the little messages and decorations he adorned the local bus shelter. To return the favor, she and her band-mates dedicate a song to him and, in turn, give the rest of us immense joy.
“Tommy” is a lovely, sanguine piece of dreamy indie-rock. At first, it soothes with its easy, calm tones, bringing a smile to our faces. Then the songs transforms into a riveting number that swells with an uplifting, jangly guitar and a superbly brimming bass line. All the while St-Pierre dazzles with her smooth, delicate voice and, of course, her delightful story. If only more artists and bands wrote songs about how other people lift our spirits, just imagine how much better this world would be made. We just need more Casper Skulls in our lives.
The band is comprised of Neil Bednis (guitar), Melanie St-Pierre (vocal, guitar), Fraser McClean (bass), and Aurora Bangarth (drums). Their new album, Knows No Kindness, is out November 12th on Next Door Records. Pre-order it at these links or directly on Bandcamp.
Basement Revolver – “Transatlantic” (Hamilton, Ontario)
RIYL: Lush, Dehd, Alvvays
Since Basement Revolver‘s birth five years ago when they shared “Johnny”, we’ve watched the Hamilton-based indie quartet develop into a Canadian tour-de-force. They’ve emerged as the equals to Alvvays, to whom many, including ourselves, compared them. Whereas the Molly Rankin-led outfit dazzle with any jangly dream-pop, Chrisy Hurn, Jonathan Malström, Nimal Agalawatte, and Levi Kertesz have increasingly delved into dreamgaze. With each song, the band increasingly wade into the territories of Lush, Slowdive, Ride, and Cocteau Twins but with an extra does of modern dreaminess. They may have just perfected their craft with “Transatlantic”.
The track is simply overwhelmingly stunning. It is simultaneously breathtaking and euphoric with every reverb-drenched guitar riff delivering shivers and Hurn’s striking vocal weaving a hypnotic spell. There is a familiarity, however, if one listens closely. The shimmering guitar riff during the chorus and Hurn’s lyrics are nods to one of the great indie songs of all-time. Just like Death Cab for Cutie’s classic, Hurn longs to narrow the distance between her and a distant partner or friend.
“Darling come on, be closer
As the melody sinks in Transatlanticism
On the phone,
I’m calling, are you in?”
We never thought that any song could pair with “Transatlanticism”, but we have been corrected. This striking single is out now on Sonic Unyon Records.
Poster Paints – “Never Saw It Coming” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: The Sundays, Cocteau Twins, Camera Obscura
Magical things happen when shoegaze, dream pop and indie rock combine. The seamless fusion of these genres on “Never Saw It Coming” from new Scottish duo Poster Paints will leave you breathless and wanting more.
The song’s allure comes from the musical knowledge that Carla J. Easton (The Vaselines) and Simon Liddell (Olympic Swimmers) bring to the project. Both are well-versed in their influences (Slowdive, Cocteau Twins) yet their sound is anything but derivative. This is neither heaven nor Las Vegas but a sonic haven somewhere in between.
The tones they create are lush and inviting, with Easton’s vocals calling to mind the dreaminess of The Sundays. Fans of Scottish greats Frightened Rabbit already know Liddell from his years with the band playing guitar and keys. Here he continues to showcase his talents in a project that promises to satisfy fans with gorgeous tunes.
This tune is out now via Olive Grove Records on Bandcamp along with their debut single, “Number 1.” Hopefully an EP or full-length is in the works. We definitely need more of their brilliance as soon as possible. The duo have been touring with Teenage Fanclub but have a solo gig next month in Glasgow.
Low Hummer – “I Tell You What” (Hull, England)
RIYL: INHEAVEN, Wings of Desire, Gang of Four
One of the great debut albums of the year was just released. Low Hummer‘s Modern Tricks for Living is a multi-genre opus of vibrant indie music with even better stories told. Among the LP’s standout tracks including the Slowdive-esque “Never Enough” and shimmering “Human Behaviour”. The album’s centerpiece, though, just might be “I Tell You What”.
The song is a rapturous and jittery blend of Brit-pop and art-rock with a dash of post-punk. Think Gang of Four brought to 2021. Like that legendary outfit, the track bounces with the urgency of an individual seeking definition in their lives and just to feel human. This effect is accentuated by co-front-persons Dan Mawer and Aimee Duncan alternating as the lead vocalist. They both share the confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty in their lives, and how their lack of self-love affects their ability to love:
“Repetition, another day
Repetition, another day
I can be human
If I could afford to
I could be someone that you could love”
Let this song be your anthem to find your way through today’s grayness while their LP could be your gateway to this young band’s emerging greatness.
Low Hummer are guitarist/singer Dan Mawer, vocalist/guitarist Aimee Duncan, guitarist John Copley, bassist Jack Gallagher, keyboardist/guitarist Stephanie Hebdon, and drummer Joseph Cox. Modern Tricks for Living is out on Dance To The Radio. Stream or purchase the LP here.
Talk Show – “Underworld” (London, England)
RIYL: The Wants, Gary Numan, Underworld
Two years ago, then newcomers Talk Show were all the rage within England’s indie scene. From NME to Farout Magazine, every UK tastemaker wanted to speak to the band. The buzz was well earned because the young quartet were creating what they called alternative dance – a fusion of post-punk, new wave, krautrock, and industrial. Think an amped up The Yeah Yeah Yeahs with darker tones, and their approach has made them a must-see-in-concert band. If you need more convincing, then “Underworld” will resolve any and all questions.
The foursome’s newest single is four minutes of searing, eerie intensity. Whirling and overdriven guitars, foreboding rhythmic pulses, and front-man Harrison Swann’s harrowing vocal combine to create a sinister-like environment. It’s like Gary Numan joining forces with legendary electronic outfit Underworld and delivering a song made for the deep, dank, underground clubs. This song was made not just for dancing but to completely paralyze one’s mind. Swann’s lyrics, too, indicate this. More specifically, he sings about the creatures who live in the shadows and appear when most are asleep. They draw energy from the darkness and in the crevices where most avoid. We, meanwhile, draw energy from Talk Show’s creative artistry.
Talk Show includes Harrison Swann (vocals, guitar), George Sullivan (bass), Chloe McGregor (drums), and Tom Holmes (guitar). Their new EP, Touch The Ground, is expected early in 2022.
Night Shop – “Forever Night” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Kevin Morby, M. Ward, Goldstar
Anyone who has paid attention to the Woods/Kevin Morby/The Babies/Waxahatchee family tree will know Justin Sullivan’s name and his project Night Shop. For those unfamiliar with the touring drummer’s music, then you’re in for a treat. The LA-based singer-songwriter brings old-school rockabilly to the modern age and with tales that are beyond the Joanie-loves-Chauci theme. For instance, a year ago, he captured the timeless intimacy of cafés on “The Cafe of Eternal Youth”. With “Forever Night”, he tackles loneliness in a pandemic world, and this is a tale to which we can all relate.
Trading his drum kit for an electric guitar, Sullivan delivers an infectious and spry rocker that is toe-tapping and head-bopping worthy. It is the type of song that makes you want to get out of bed and forget about the downtrodden days. But instead of us reciting what he has to say, Sullivan’s lyrics say it all.
“I want to destroy the cynical
I must be clear about that
I want to live on eternally
In these dreams that I have
I want to go where the music is loud
That’s where I belong
I want to lose myself in a crowd
And inside a song
I don’t want to learn to stop trying
I don’t want to stop trying to learn.
Oh, let me burn”
Preach on Mr. Sullivan and we will follow. Those who want to join can circle December 1st on their calendars, which is when Night Shop’s new album, Forever Night, will be released. Dangerbird Records has the privilege. Head over to Bandcamp or click these links to pre-order it.
Battle Ave. – “Fear Of” (Kingston, NY USA)
RIYL: The Uglysuit, Wilco, Bowerbirds
In late August, we marveled at Battle Ave.‘s indie-rock escapism as heard on “My Year With the Wizard”. Its story was fantasy interlaced with reality and set within a familiar framework of ’90s college radio. Fifteen, twenty years ago, that song would have been heard across the US and included in one of CMJ’s monthly CD compilations. With CMJ’s rebirth, maybe, just maybe people from across the globe will flock to hear Jesse Doherty, Samantha Niss, Adam Stoutenburgh, John Burdick, and Peter Naddeo. If they do, they’ll encounter the splendor of “Fear Of”.
This melodic yet haunting number is a bit of escapism in its own right with the dabbles of the keys and the haze that builds from the lightly-reverbed guitars. It sounds like the song that plays when a stranger enters a cabin in the middle of nowhere, wondering who lives here and what they, what we are doing here. Doherty’s voice, meanwhile, is subdue, delivered in a near whisper to represent his uneasy frame of mind. He, too, wonders what he’s doing here.
“And in a dream I’ve got to sleep with one eye open
I can see the knives, ‘I want to be alive’ echoing in my mind
Every day, I gaze out of the window
In fear of”
As he wanders, the song builds, leading to a Nils Cline-esque moment. And further and further we fall into the wonderful world of Battle Ave.
Head over to Bandcamp to pre-order the band’s new EP, Battle ave. It will be released October 8th.
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